American racial segregation was not a thing until white planters realized that the Black enslaved population and the white bonds people and the general population of poor whites who lived around plantations large and small, operated peaceably together. This was a problem that was antithetical to their long-term goals.
Divide and conquer were established.
Perhaps the best characterization of that period I have seen is from (Conditions of Antebellum Slavery) by PBS.
Fully 3⁄4 of Southern whites did not even own slaves; of those who did, 88% owned 20 or fewer. Whites who did not own slaves were primarily yeoman farmers. Practically speaking, the institution of slavery did not help these people.[sic] I’m afraid I have to disagree that they did not benefit, nevertheless let us continue.
And yet, many non-slave-owning white Southerners identified with, and defended the institution of slavery. Though many resented the large slaveholders’ wealth and power, they aspired to own slaves themselves, and join the privileged Ranks’. Also, slavery gave the poor white farmers a group of people to feel superior to.
(They may have been poor, but they were not slaves, and they were not black. They gained a sense of power simply by being white). The power and privilege they gained would become a significant currency that probably exceeds any other derivative form they could have acquired, hence my disagreement with the quote.
“Having someone to feel superior to.”, elements of that mental manipulation still guides the thinking of many whites today.
The continuation of that mindset has continued to impoverish whites across the South and other parts of the country, while those not so constrained by racial hatred have been making phenomenal strides, including recently formed immigrant communities.
Nowhere is this more evidenced than in the so-called red states, or should I say the former slave states? Poorer, than the rest of the nation, yet they continue to vote their color instead of for policies that would benefit them and inexorably empower and lift them out of poverty.
As they do so, first-generation Americans soar to power and leadership positions, even within their own Republican party.
Colin Powell, former four-star General, chairman of the joint chiefs, former secretary of state, Nicky Haley, former Governor of South Carolina. Bobby Jindal, former Governor of Louisiana, Alejandro Mayorkas Homeland Security Secretary, et al. But none more consequential than the groundbreaking Kamala Harris, first woman, the first woman of color to be Vice President of the United States.
The list is long and varied; it is not confined to those well known politically; first-generation Americans are making huge strides in technology, business, medicine, and many other areas, taking full advantage of the American experience, the American opportunities, despite the barriers and challenges…
Instead of changing course, changing their mindset from the misinformation fed them, many whites continue down the path of hatred and grievance. The immigrants are taking their jobs; “Oh, so you didn’t bother going to college, but the tech-engineer took your job?
The sense of hatred is so palpable that they chose a failed con-man to be their president rather than an imminently qualified woman. Make no mistake about it; what drives them is hatred, period!
They are voracious consumers of misinformation, which confirms their hatred and insecurities. Racial demagogues like the recently deceased Rush Limbaugh made tons of money feeding them the hatred he knew they would clamor for. They elected Donald Trump another demagogue, and he wanted them to know that he could out racist- the vilest racists.
Wherever racist causes were, Trump made sure to support them. In the end, Donald Trump bestowed upon Rush Limbaugh the presidential medal of freedom.
The deep affection they feel and declare for Donald Trump has nothing to do with Trump’s per se. What they honor and adore is that someone in a position of power supports the cause.
For them, an unabashed racist demagogue who doesn’t have the common sense to know better, or the intellectual maturity to want to do better was exactly what they wanted all along. If he were ever to stop being that, they would dump him in a minute.
Even as the world moves on, leaving them behind, they cling to the misguided ideas of white superiority planted in the heads of their ancestors hundreds of years ago to keep them in check.
Today, they see their worth in their whiteness.
And so, in their world of blindness, a one-eyed racialist is the perfect choice to be king.
Mike Beckles is a former Police Detective, businessman, freelance writer, black achiever honoree, and publisher of the blog mikebeckles.com.